Three Thoughts About Genealogists’ Recent Comments

Originally published  on on 24 Apr 2016.

Over the last 6 weeks I’ve spoken with several other professional genealogists and three conversations are continuing to resonate in my mind.  This is a matter of opinion and as I highly value these individuals knowledge, experience and practice, I want to share their views because I see the world a little differently.

  1. “No tree containing over 2000 individuals can be accurate.”  Hmm, accuracy in identity of the folks we include in our tree is paramount.  If we don’t have the evidence to support that the “John Doe” we have is the father of our “Adam Doe” than we are barking up the wrong tree.  The repercussions are serious – wasted time, the error keeps being repeated ad nauseam by others who don’t check sources and we’re not adhering to the standards.  That being said, I don’t believe there is a finite number that insures accuracy and when the number is reached, it’s over. Genealogy is not a game to win; it’s not “I got more peeps than you do!”  Genealogy is quality.   As genealogists we need to be open and accepting that our work can radically change direction at any time.  As one of my relatives likes to kid me, “So, you really can guarantee that gggggrandma’s children were biologically ggggggrandpas?”  No, but that’s where dna can help.  We need to use all the tools available and dna is definitely one where I need more training and experience.  Learning and growing are important in every field.  Setting a threshold is not.
  2. “I stopped working on my own tree 10 years ago because there was nothing else to be found.”  I totally understand that when one begins to take paying clients time is limited on personal tree research. I feel that pain!  My New Jersey to Ohio Coles keep popping up but I put them aside for everybody else.  I don’t believe, though,  there is ever a time when one can say there is no more information to be found.  We don’t know if there’s a record or photo in someone’s attic, basement, garage, antique store, historical museum or even misfiled in the National Archives.  If you don’t look I can guarantee you won’t find anything!  I’m still hopeful that someday the misfiled Pennsylvania probate records I’m searching for will be discovered.  That newly found document could alter the line so I keep open the fact that my tree is never done and there is always something out there waiting to be discovered.
  3. “I make my online tree private so only serious genealogists will contact me for specific information.”  Perhaps my background in the education field and my early experiences in genealogy influence me to share openly.  My view is that serious genealogists most likely already have what you have.  If they don’t, they will have no qualms about reaching out to you to collaborate, irregardless of whether your tree is public or private.  For those that aren’t “serious,” everyone must start somewhere and if your work is well documented then I’d rather have a newbie take off and run with my work than not.  Making a contact can be intimidating to some; I don’t want anyone to have to reinvent the wheel.  I understand that much time, effort and possibly cost was involved in accumulating your research.  If you want to recoup some of your investment then publish your work. Creating an e-book is easy and inexpensive.

Happy Hunting and now I’m back to Spring Cleaning!

Family Reunion Episode on Finding Your Roots – A Must See!

Originally published on on 21 Feb 2016.

Had an interesting week!  Attended two days of an awesome presentation at my schools called Challenge Day which challenges youth and adults to “be the change” in their communities.  It was physically and emotionally exhausting but in a good way. Instead of watching this week’s episode of Finding Your Roots on PBS, I took a webinar offered by the Board of Certified Genealogists which was really interesting and I thought, more beneficial to me as I work in completing my portfolio for submission.

I caught up viewing the Finding Your Roots episode yesterday and want to encourage you to view it if you haven’t already done so.

First, I must admit, I wasn’t wild about the artists portrayed.  I’m not a rapper fan so LL Cool J and Sean Puffy Combs don’t interest me.  Wow, was I surprised!  I seriously think this episode was THE BEST of all of the genealogical shows ever done.

No spoilers here – just watch it if you haven’t seen it.  I loved the use of dna, I loved the wrong initial lines they followed, I just absolutely adored the twists and turns with both artists.  Kudos to how they maturely handled sensitive topics that were uncovered. These two men have the right attitude!  If you’d like to view it click here and enjoy!  Do it soon as the next episode will be available beginning Wednesday so you may not be able to access this.

Dumping Your Tree – A Radical Way To Correct Mistakes

Originally published on on 11 Feb 2016.

Have you heard about the movement to abandon your family tree and start over again?  I first read about this trend last month as some genealogists decided to make this their New Year’s resolution.

My first thought was, “Are you kidding me!?!  All these years of work abandoned to start over!  No, thanks.”

The reasoning behind the idea is that many of us, when newbies, were happy clickers and not really evidence investigators.  By happy clickers I mean whenever I found info on someone’s tree I would trust its accuracy and include it in my tree without ever analyzing it.  Thus, wrongly added info perpetuated errors as others copied it.

I know for fact this happened as recently I was investigating a collateral line for my Kinship Determination Project and uncovered an error that I’ve now found to have been copied by many others. Oops!  Although the error was innocent it really drives home the point that genealogists need to be careful and not rush.

I had found the name “Catherine” with a family in the 1860 census and assumed that was a child of the couple.  There were two genealogies written into book form from 1947 and 1959 but neither listed the child.  I figured they had just overlooked her as they had other children missing who had died in between census years that I had found via Find-A-Grave and Baptism records.

Little Miss Catharine grew up and I found her in the 1870 census not living with the family but attending a boarding school in the state the family had just relocated from.  That made sense to me, she was studying to become a teacher like her siblings.

In the 1880 census I found her married and living in the same town as “her parents.”  In fact, Miss Catharine had married the widower of her sister who had died in 1879.

I found that couple in the 1900 census living in the same county and included in the household was who I thought was Catharine’s father.  That was good enough for me.  Except, none of it was right!

Now that more records are available I found the marriage certificate for Miss Catharine and discovered her maiden name was not the family’s surname.  So I looked for another marriage certificate, in several states, to see if Miss Catharine was also a widow and was using her married name and not her maiden name on the document.  Couldn’t find one. The certificate did say it was her first marriage and the husband’s second.  I had the husband’s first marriage certificate so that confirmed his number of marriages.  I figured that recording it was her first marriage was an error but it was not.

The error was made in the 1860 census.  Upon closer examination I discovered that the enumerator had written Catharine but should have written Laura.  Catharine’s year of birth is off by 5 years from the family’s real child, Laura.  No, the names aren’t close at all.  The mother’s name was Catharine so I believe now that the record lists the mom twice and omits the daughter’s name.  The Catharine in 1870 was a cousin of the family but not their child.  The cousin remained in the other state and married there. Have the marriage certificate to prove that and she is listed in the two genealogy books. The Catharine that was married to the widower was just another woman who happened to have the same name; she was not related in anyway to the original couple.  Now the 1900 census is very interesting in that the father of Laura is living with his ex-son-in-law and the new wife, Catharine, next door to his daughter.  The son-in-law was quite prosperous for the area, the couple had only 2 children and a servant living with them so they had plenty of room for the elderly man that his own children, with their large families living near by, did not.  So, I’ve corrected my error; I removed Catharine as their child. Interestingly, one of Catharine’s children married into the kinship family so there is a connection, just not where I had it.

I do understand that as we improve our work that we will find errors, most likely many errors, that were made earlier in our career.  I’m still not sure that dumping your work is the solution.  I’m more apt to leave what I have and then go back and investigate closer line by line to make needed corrections.

As more direct evidence becomes available, past analysis may prove to be in error.  I’m okay with that!  I’d rather spend the time analyzing what I’ve already found then having to accumulate documents all over again. Now I’m working out a method to make sure I am able to go over my existing lines.  I wish I could color code or date stamp when I’ve touched a family so I know they’ve passed my review.  Since that doesn’t exist, I’ve created an Excel document that has the family name, for example, Joseph Kos, a column for the date I began to check and a column for the date I’ve finished reviewing his line to where they connect to a living relative as I know that with my more recent family members, the information I’ve recorded is correct.  I’ve also created a spreadsheet called, Interesting Folks, and I’m listing the ancestors’ name, year of birth and death, the fact that’s interesting, and the area that’s interesting.  For example, Joseph Kos’ fact would be that he died young due to the Spanish Influenza epidemic.  The area would be medical.  This way I can quickly find some of the interesting family stories that get lost in the tree.  This method is basically creating an index to the tree and I just wish I had thought of it when I first began!  Happy Hunting!

Genealogical Resolutions

Originally published on on 3 Jan 2016.

Exercise, eat healthier, lose weight – nope, not for me!  The time has come to resolve for 2016, that I will

  • diligently work on completing my Board of Certification of Genealogy portfolio and submit it before my deadline of October 24th.
  • in my free time (yeah, right) start downloading all of the scans I have placed on so when I can no longer afford a subscription I won’t have lost anything.  I foolishly saved everything to Ancestry without downloading a copy to my overworked laptop.
  • continue blogging twice a week.
  • plan my upcoming midwest research trip and find things that will interest hubby while I’m researching.
  • really, truly set up an office that is functional.  I’ll be reclaiming the dining room table in the interim now that the holidays are over.
  • reread the genealogical bibles – the Genealogy Standards, Evidence Explained, BCG Skillbuilders, etc, to refresh the unfreshed mind.
  • fix my old citations in my family tree as they really were poorly done back in the day.
  • work on completing my e-book, Thanks to the Yanks. (Since part of this is included in my certification portfolio I’ll be unable to publish until after the process is completed but I can continue to work on it since I’ve changed directions from when I started)
  • continue taking webinars to refine my craft and
  • looking forward to attending conferences, especially the National Genealogy Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in May!  Email me through my website if you plan on attending, too! (


Being Thankful for Genealogy Goodness

Originally published on on 15 Nov 2015.

Last Sunday I wrote about genealogy bullies and record thieves.  I reflected this week, and with Thanksgiving around the corner and the heinous events in Paris,  I wanted to take a moment to think about all the kindhearted genealogists out there that far outweigh the small number of bullies.  So with here’s what I’m thankful for…

  • Maggie Landfair who responded to a Rootsweb bulletin board posting I did in 1999 and provided me with so much info she had collected on her husband’s side and put me in touch with the author of two Leininger books so I could learn about my dad’s side of the family.
  • Bob Leininger who shared his electronic files with me while he was half way around the world.  I’ve referred to those documents (and his books) time and time again.  Just wish he would update them! Hint, Hint
  • Edgar Duer Whitley who somehow figured out that my DURE family should be DUER and shared his lifelong work with me just weeks before he passed away.  I never found out how he got my email address but I was sure thankful he did.
  • Librarians across the country who have done lookups, gave advice and went above and beyond to help me solve so many family mysteries.  Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever met a librarian that didn’t help me.
  • Countless distant relatives who have contacted me via online sources willing to share what they’ve discovered and nicely correcting wrong info I may have put out there.
  • Jenny Mig who I’ve never met but is the complete opposite of the bullies I mentioned last week.  Here’s an email from her:  “Hello, I just purchased a family bible from ebay that belonged to John Travis Harbaugh. I know it’s weird that I bought a family bible that has nothing to do with my family, it was just heartbreaking for me to see someones family history being auctioned off like that. Most of them are hundreds of dollars, but I was able to get this one cheap. I will be scanning all of the hand written pages as soon as it arrives, then I am donating it to the Perry County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society. Please let me know if you would like copies of the records that are written in the bible.”  Jenny did just what she said she would.  How inspirational that she cares so much about history and record preservation to reach out to a perfect stranger.
  • All my ancestors who took a stand for what was just.  It took great courage and I let them serve as a role model for me.
  • My ancestors who didn’t make the right choice.  That may seem odd to be thankful for but it reinforces our humanism and allows me to learn from their mistakes.
  • My emigrating ancestors who circled the globe to seek a better life.  Their acceptance and acclamation of different cultures amazes me.  Tolerance and acceptance, we could all use the reminder.
  • and I’m most thankful for my husband, daughter and son who put up with my incessant talking about dead people they never knew and dragging them to countless cemeteries, libraries, museums, courthouses, and old homes around the country for years.  They still talk about how I got them lost in the Dismal Swamp on a road trip back from Washington, DC on December 30, 1999.  No GPS, the AAA triptics were wrong, we were running out of gas, it was getting dark AND we were all concerned that maybe Y2K really would be a problem.  We made it home safely and I continue the family search.

Please take a moment to reflect on the good in the world and make it a goal to tell someone today you appreciate them.

Beware of Genealogy Bullies and Record Thieves!

Originally published on on 18 Nov 2015.

Bullying is often an overused term to describe boorish behavior.  Disrespectful behavior alone, however, does not accurately describing a bully.  A bully is “a blustering browbeating person; especially : one habitually cruel to others who are weaker.”1  Habitually being the key word here, a bully must repeatedly and regularly act in a threatening way.

When a bully is mentioned most visualize a schoolyard thug or an overbearing boss.  But bullying isn’t solely dependent upon face-to-face contact; online bullying is rampant and the field of genealogy is affected.

On several occasions someone has tried to bully me online.  I don’t like to report people as I am a proponent of free speech, however, when an individual repeatedly threatens than I believe the individual’s right to free speech needs to be reined in by the online community.

I first encountered a genealogy bully in 2009.  I received an email regarding my public tree on from a woman who claimed my documented 4th great grandfather was incorrect and that I needed to remove his name immediately or she would “take action” against my “fraudulent” posting.  I looked at the sources and they appeared to be sound – census, marriage, burial.  I wrote back listing the citations.  The woman responded without taking into consideration the information I had provided.  She then stated, “I intend to report you to Ancestry because of your negligence.”  Negligence?  “You are NOT related to me.” she added.  With an attitude like hers, who would want to be related to her?  I certainly didn’t!

At the time, genealogy was my hobby and I didn’t have the confidence in my work that I do today.  She had a title included on her emails that she was a historian with a genealogical society so I thought she had some degree of credibility and expertise that I was lacking.  I went back and looked again at my documentation.  The great grandfather’s name was fairly common so maybe there was more than one in the area at the same time and I had confused them.  I didn’t find any others, though.

I decided to save the information by disconnecting the parents from the child. That way, the offending parent’s info was still available as I didn’t want to make my entire tree private nor did I want to lose the documentation by removing the rest of the line. I could always find the disconnected people by using the “Find a person in this tree” search on the website.

Several years later I found further information related to the family.  I reconnected the parents back on my tree.  Sure enough, I received another email from the woman.  Again she demanded that I take down the information or she would contact Ancestry.  I responded that I was not going to take down the information as I believed it to be accurate and that I was going to post her emails in the comment section of my ancestor so that others could see her threats.  I reminded her that she had contacted me previously without objectively looking at my sources.  She didn’t respond and I doubt she ever contacted Ancestry as that seemed to be the end of it.

My next encounter with an online bully also happened via email through  I have updated all of the Harbaugh family since the 1947 text, Harbaugh History, was written by Cooprider and Cooprider.  I was contacted by a male who said he had been in an antique shop in California and discovered a photo of a Harbaugh I had in my tree.  He had purchased the photo knowing I would want to have it.  I replied that I would be happy to attach the photo to my tree and thanked him for contacting me.  He instantly replied that I would have to pay him for his trouble.  Whoa!  I never asked him to go to any trouble nor did I post a request for a photo. I responded that he might want to contact a closer relative as the photo was of a 3rd cousin several times removed.  Again, he responded quickly trying to make me feel badly.  It didn’t work, I reported him to Ancestry.

Unfortunately, he’s not the only antique store bully out there as I’ve been contacted several more times by individuals who demand a ransom for what they found.

I also tend to get contacted by people trying to make a quick buck who don’t understand genealogy.  Although this isn’t an example of bullying or stealing I think it’s funny how people try to get money from genealogists.  Here was the email exchange:

Can you please call me xxx-xxx-xxxxx. I think I have your Bible here… 
I responded:

I’m not missing a Bible, S. Who’s Bible is it? Lori
The response:

Hello Lori,

This Bible contains names such as Jacob, Edwin, Delphene.


My response:

Hi! I have one Ortha Delphine Harbaugh in my tree. She is a 3rd cousin 3 times removed from my husband. You need to try to find someone closer to her to contact you. Lori
The Bible owner didn’t even provide a last name.  She found people in my tree with the names Jacob, Edwin and Delphene and writes to me saying she found my bible.  Must think I was born yesterday!

Photos and bibles in antique stores always sadden me.  They belong in a family’s home and not a musty store.  Yet, that does not make it acceptable to demand payment for a nonrequested action nor bully the person who refuses to pay for the item.  To me, it’s a take on kidnap and ransom.

My 7th great grandfather’s indentured servant record became available on Ebay awhile ago and I was contacted by the overseas seller to purchase it.  I downloaded the image shown on Ebay, attached it to my tree with the email as the source, and replied, “No, thanks.” He probably destroyed the original as there’s no record the document was purchased or attempts to resell. Since the record contained other individuals who had become indentured at the same time as my great grandfather it appeared to be a court log.  I have no clue how the seller obtained it but I assume it was stolen from the government archives.  Would I have loved to have had the original?  Sure, but I’m not going to reward someone monetarily who has stolen public records.  Do I know for sure he stole the document?  No, but why he’d try to sell an original public record that should be in an archive makes me suspect.

I can’t claim my interactions with the seller was bullying as he didn’t threaten me.  What I can say is that there are more and more people who are trying to prey on those who are interested in preserving the past.  Genealogists Beware!

1Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, Web. 07 Nov. 2015.

A New Genealogy Society – What Fun!

Originally published on on 11 Oct 2015.

My sister-in-law called me last week and wanted to know if she was Scotch-Irish. I laughed and told her she was of Scottish and Irish heritage.  I then explained that the term Scotch-Irish is derogatory and only used in the U.S.

She was happy to find out that she was indeed Scottish as a new genealogy society is being established in the city where she lives and she wants to join with her friends.  The first organizational meeting is today so she doesn’t have a membership application to complete or much information on the requirements.

I looked at a similar organization and, knowing that I’m going to be extremely busy with my day job and trying to get my genealogy certification portfolio put together, I told her I’d pull the records for her as an early Christmas present.

Oh what fun it was to review my older research notes on one of my favorite couples on my husband’s side!  I really wish I could have met these folks as they are just endearing to me with their spunk, love and acceptance of each other’s differences.

John Cooke was born in  Whees, Stirlingshire Scotland about 1827.  I have him with his family in the 1841 and 1851 census in Scotland.  I’ve never been able to locate an emigration record but he must have come to New York City shortly after 1851 as he married Mary “Mollie” O’Brien in 1854 in Newark, New Jersey.  Mary was born in 1835 in Limerick, Ireland and thanks to the Irish records now available online, I have her Roman Catholic Baptism record.  Of course, it is on the right side towards the bottom of the page that is most difficult to read!  Mollie and her step-sister, Ellen, emigrated in February 1853 as domestic servants with another girl from her parish.  This was during the potato famine and there is no records of land ownership by Mollie’s parents so times must have been tough.  Coming to a new country at 18 years of age with nothing takes spunk!

Newark, New Jersey, being just across the river from New York City, was the perfect place to elope and take the train to Chicago.  I don’t know for fact that Mollie and John eloped but it’s awfully odd that there were no traditional wedding banns posted, which was a common Roman Catholic tradition. Also strange is that step-sis Ellen wasn’t the witness.  It appears that two unrelated parishioners did that job.  The birth information that was given at the church doesn’t quite match reality, either.  With no relatives around to question, John shaved off a few years, making him the same age as Mollie.

The couple remained together until John’s death in 1889.  Mollie lived until 1903 and never remarried. I believe they truly loved one another and their respect goes way beyond what a lot of folks can’t do even today.  The couple made an arrangement prior to their marriage – all female children would be raised Roman Catholic and all male children would be raised Protestant.  I’m not sure how Mollie got the Roman Catholic Church to agree to this since the rule was if you were married in the church you were agreeing to raise ALL of your children in the faith.  I also have to give John credit for marrying Mollie in her church and giving 50-50 in regards to the children.  I’m really impressed this agreement was made 160 years ago and both parties kept their word.  With integrity, they didn’t need a written pre-nuptial

The couple had 3 children – 2 Protestant boys and 1 Catholic girl.  I’ve been in contact with the girls descendants and they are all Catholic to this day.  All of the boys descendants I’ve been in contact with continue to be Protestant except for one and that was due to marrying a Catholic girl (me).

Interestingly, when John died he was buried in the Protestant cemetery, Calvary, in Cook County, Illinois.  Mary’s death certificate noted that she was going to be interred in Calvary, too, but she wasn’t.  She was buried in Queen of Peace Roman Catholic Cemetery instead.  After 15 years of being apart the children decided the couple needed to be together so John was re-interred next to Mollie. Unfortunately, there was no stone.  I assume because the cost of re-interment was considerable at the time.  I wish I could afford to put a stone there cause this is a true love story that needs to be long remembered.

Springing Into Genealogy

Originally published on 16 Apr 2015


Warm Days – Cool Nights

Flowers Blooming – Birds Aflight

I just love spring, don’t you? It’s a time of new growth, gentle rain and fresh scents.  After a recent trip to Salt Lake City I have become inspired to begin a new journey; one that will hone my research skills, showcase my discoveries and validate my dedication to a field to which I have long aspired.  You are welcome to follow me on my quest to become a Certified Genealogist.

Since all successful trips start with a kernel of an idea, first, a little background about my roots.  My maternal grandmother, Non, was a wealth of family lore.  Her powerful stories of her people’s lives in her native Croatia were inspiring, magical and guaranteed to tug at the listener’s heart.  These tales encouraged me to persevere against adversity and dream that one day, I, too, would lead an exciting life.

Although I had a vision of my Non’s side of the family, I had no knowledge of my dad’s lines.  Since my parents separated when I was five and my paternal grandmother died when I was seven, I had to rely on the limited information my mother gathered while married.  “Your dad is German, Scotch-Irish, English, and Welsh.” When I pressed further she would add, “Something about the Indians, I’m not sure.”

I wanted to know more. Who were his people? What kind of lives did they lead?  When did they arrive in the US?  Why did they settle in Indiana?  So began my odyssey to trace my heritage.

My questions arose in the prehistoric time before the internet. Back in the day, there were only two methods to obtain genealogical information – call an old family member or go to the library.  With method 1 not an option I sought out my local librarian’s help.  My hometown library was small and the local history section limited.  The librarian suggested I write down the names, dates and places that I knew and what I wanted to know, then visit the main county library. Her sound advice was the first and best tip I have ever received and something I still do today.

“Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.”  -James Baldwin

Unfortunately, the larger library was also lacking in materials so I put those questions aside for a time.

After our first child was born, my husband and I were given a family record book to note our new family’s special events.  One of the pages was a pedigree chart – and my lopsided tree gnawed at me.  My mother-in-law had given me my husband’s family history which went all the way back to April 1699.  Yes, 1699!  Imagine that!  His family stories were as exciting as those my Non had told me – a Pennsylvania family member who was an acquaintance of Ben Franklin, a Long Island sea captain who fathered 19 children, early pioneers traveling to Chicago via a Conestoga wagon and a great aunt who had belonged to the Mayflower Society.

Since I was determined to fill in my skewed tree but now lived 1200 miles away from my childhood home, I wrote to my dad for help.  He promised to give me his family tree book when he died.  What?  He has a family tree book?  I have to wait til he dies?  Huh?  This became my second lesson in genealogy – some folks just don’t want to share their knowledge – even if they are closely related to you.

“Knowledge is power.  Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family. “  – Kofi Annan

I practiced patience and was determined that someday I’d have the answers and when I did, I would share it with the world. My father passed away 12 years later.  I reached out to my step-mother who said she’d see if she could get the book to me.  Months passed and I tried again.  She was too busy, then the weather was bad.  I despaired that I would never find my family’s past.

One hot summer Sunday I was reading our local newspaper when a headline caught my eye.  The reporter had interviewed several historians who predicted that the rapid growth of the internet would result in genealogical records with a click of a button.  The article listed a few websites for further information. Hmm, could this be the right time to make my discoveries?

Dialing up (yes, we had to dial to get on in those early days!) I typed in the limited information I had and discovered – NOTHING.  I did find a web posting site and placed a note requesting further information on my surnames.  To my surprise, within a day I received an email from a distant cousin I had never met who had a copy of the family tree and the email address for the author of the book my dad had. In a week I had the electronic copy of the book from the author and a hard copy of my pages in the mail.  And so began my journey into the past. Genealogy lesson number 3…

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” -W.E. Hickson

In the years that followed I have used many resources in addition to the internet to make my discoveries.  Some information was found in moments, others took years to gain. No matter, each was a happy dance and a shout of joy.  Next time we’re together, I want to tell you about my latest and greatest find – his name is Wilson Williams.

Your comments are always valued and welcomed. Please post!